Gardening Articles: Edibles :: Vegetables

When Birds are Pests

by Michael E. Trunko


Winged invaders swoop down from the sky, descend upon your ripening fruit or newly planted vegetable garden and in minutes your harvest or garden is gone. If you've ever suffered similar misfortunes, you're not alone. Although bird problems vary from year to year, region to region, and crop to crop, gardeners can expect damage to some extent -- from minor annoyances to total devastation -- every season.

"It's just a fact of life," laments Mona Zemsky of Bird-X, Inc., a manufacturer of bird-control devices in Chicago, "that if you grow certain crops, you're going to have a bird problem. Irrigated gardens in the deserts of the Southwest are just as susceptible as gardens in the Midwest or New England."

An effective bird-control strategy involves more than sticking a scarecrow in your garden and forgetting about it (although in rare instances, this may work). Usually, the secret lies not only in the product or procedure but in your efforts and commitment as well. Also, the first strategy you attempt may not prove successful. But if you correctly use the appropriate products and procedures, you will enjoy damage-free harvests.

Start Early

"Failing to be ready early enough is perhaps the biggest mistake gardeners make," Zemsky points out. "You must keep the birds out before they include your garden in their daily feeding habit."

Get your tools and equipment into position at least two weeks before crops are desirable to birds. With most fruit crops, this means several days prior to the coloration or softening of the fruit. If you use scare devices earlier, birds will become too familiar with them. Any later, and birds will have already acquired a taste for the crop, so it will be harder to chase them away.

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